SM Entertainment’s new simulation-based dating game starring Red Velvet’s Irene is not only disgusting, but it is also dangerous for both the user and the star herself.

SM Entertainment (SM) recently rolled out a new virtual reality dating game application (app) that utilizes artificial intelligence to create a realistic simulation. 

This release is not the first time that the company has dabbled in mobile application development. The company has a variety of entertainment and lifestyle application varying from K-pop news to a fanart sharing service and food exploration, in both Google Play and Apple’s App Store. However, SM’s newest mobile game endeavor is different for two reasons.

Firstly, the founder and CEO of SM Entertainment, Lee Soo-man has consistently talked about the development of technology that harnesses A.I. Last September, Lee attended an event as the keynote speaker in Jakarta, Indonesia. 

While there, he spoke about the countries economic potential and notably dedicated a good portion of his speech to talk about A.I. In particular, the “A.I. Native Generation.” According to Lee, this “A.I. Native Generation” is comprised of those who grew up with the internet and smartphones. 


SM Entertainment currently has eight different applications available on the Google Play store.

Furthermore, SM has partnered with technology giants such as Samsung (link in Korean) in the past for A.I. innovation and exhibition. As such, this app development and release is just the tip of the iceberg for what the public can expect from the company in the future.

K-pop not only utilizes a star’s image and reputation to sell products but takes the individual themselves — personality, desirability, sexuality, personal lives  — and commodifies it for transnational commercial purposes.

Secondly, this mobile game differs from the previous releases in that it does not focus on music or K-pop groups. Instead, the app called “Star Date #Irene” revolves around one person: Irene from K-pop girl group Red Velvet. Currently available on Android devices, “Star Date #Irene,” offers game players a chance to go on a date with the singer.

In the application, players have an option to choose from different romantic date scenarios such as a car ride, boating, or watching fireworks with Irene. Further, users can choose from three different endings to the love story with the Red Velvet member. To complete the game successfully, players will have to complete various missions and levels of gameplay to earn points to unlock perks.

From a business perspective, Irene is ideal for this game’s launch. Her visuals have been described as unreal and unattainable, making her desirable and idolized by men and women alike. Moreover, as a member of Red Velvet, she has constructed an image of a woman who is fun, sexy, powerful, dark, yet childish and fun. These different factors have made Irene extremely recognizable, and as such marketable too.

Generally, using celebrities as part of marketing campaigns is considered ordinary and accepted worldwide. However, K-pop not only utilizes a star’s image and reputation to sell products but takes the individual themselves — personality, desirability, sexuality, personal lives  — and commodifies it for transnational commercial purposes.

…their love lives remain the singular beacon of unreachability by fans who may desire a romantic, and possibly sexual, relationship with them.

As a result, fans have an excessive amount of access to star’s lives and time. In general, K-pop celebrities have social media accounts — personal or company run — that are regularly updated with their current project or whereabouts. More, followers can register on official fan cafes where they might get exclusive messages from a management company or their stars.  Besides that, fans can also attend concerts, speak to idols at fan meetings or fan signs, go to public schedules, interact with them on live streams on V-App, Periscope, and Instagram live. Further, it may get to the point where they recognize celebrities’ pets, family members or have even seen the inside of their homes or dorms.

Raymond Tuan the father of GOT7’s Mark regularly posts content of social media related to his son’s group. As a result, he and his family have become recognizable persons in the GOT7 fandom.

A celebrities personal relationships, unless explicitly okayed by the K-pop star and their family members, non-celebrity friends, etc., is something that most stars keep very private — and this is especially true romantic relationships. As such, their love lives remain the singular beacon of unreachability for fans who may desire a romantic, or possibly sexual, relationship with them (unfortunately, the amount of access that fans have to the celebrities’ lives can also delude them into thinking a relationship beyond being a fan is possible!).

In turn, due to its inaccessibility by the fans and the public at large, the possible romantic lives of K-pop idols are under constant and extreme scrutiny with any dating new becoming huge stories. While some fans may feel happy when dating news is confirmed, there are others who express anger or intense jealousy. And this is why “Star Date #Irene” is so dangerous: SM did not develop this app for those who are not possessive, jealous or fantasize about their favorite celebrity; they created it for those who are.

A Dangerous Fantasy

Furthermore, the gamification of the dating experience situates Irene as an object to be won, bought, and possessed. Consequently, this can lead to game players developing baseless and severe cases of possession that can lead to real-life consequences that can put Irene in danger.

Through the application, players feel they have had a unique experience with Irene, and subsequently may feel closer to the star as a result. However, this is not real, and they are no closer to the singer than they were before; it is a sham of a romance that will never translate to reality in any other form than in their heads.

During the second half of 2017, girl group Apink was the target of multiple bomb threats from an obsessive fan. Reportedly, this fan was upset by a TV appearance the group made where the fan felt Apink was too friendly with some of the male guests and cast. In response, the fan felt entitled to punish them by making the threats.

Later that year in November 2017, police revealed they received over 30 calls from this same fan. In these calls, the fan would report that they had planted explosives in the vicinity of the girl group or make other threats. Consequently, due to the constant threats to their lives, Apink postponed or canceled events for safety reasons. Additionally, the group’s agency Plan A Entertainment has partnered with the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) to locate and indict the person behind the attacks.

Apink’s experience is only one of many where fans feel entitled to a star’s life and the extremes they can go to when they feel that they own or possess the artist. Given these accounts, the gameplay of “Star Date #Irene” is harmful and dangerous.

Unfortunately, given the amount of energy that Lee Soo-man has and is dedicating to technology and the insidious “#Irene” in the application’s name, other versions of the game featuring other SM Entertainment artists are expected to be released.



By O.C

Disclaimer: The opinions or views contained in this article may not represent the opinions or views of Kpoplove, The Korea Daily, its employees, agents or affiliates.